Posts Tagged ‘research’

Maximizing Multiple Marketing Platforms for Success

May 20th, 2016

After 35 years in the industry, Chinese Laundry, a privately held women’s footwear company, continues to expand its influence season after season.

During Internet Retailer Conference Exhibition (IRCE) 2015, MarketingSherpa’s Courtney Eckerle spoke at the MarketingSherpa Media Center with Scott Cohn, Vice President of Ecommerce, Chinese Laundry.

Scott spoke about how marketers tend to establish processes or utilize platforms that work for specific projects or campaigns, but don’t always think about how it affects our customers.

“The biggest challenge we had is that they [platforms] were perpetually out of sync. So our inventory, pricing and a whole variety of other things that a customer expects to be consistent across channels, just weren’t consistent,” he said.

Whether you are looking to condense your blog platforms to update your content strategy or want to build product awareness, Cohn shared two key takeaways on maximizing multiple marketing platforms:


Be on the lookout

When undertaking a technology innovation, how do you begin to think about where you pain points lie?

Read more…

How to Be Ready for the Future of Marketing in 3 Steps

May 3rd, 2016

Editor’s Note: This interview was edited for length and grammar only.

Marketers by the very nature of what they do are constantly trying to predict what’s going to happen next. That could include answering questions like: What’s our next big campaign? How will this new channel perform at generating leads? Will this strategy work?

But marketers seldom — if at all — get to sit back to wonder about or predict the broader future of marketing.

In my role as chief evangelist, I often get to talk to influencers about what they’re seeing in the marketing community. When I read about Nick Johnson, Brand Director, Incite Group, and the research he did to understand the future of marketing, and later writing a book about it, I wanted to talk to him about what he learned and how marketers can get ready for the future of marketing.


Brian Carroll: What inspired you to research and write about the Future of Marketing?

nick-johnson-headshotNick Johnson: A variety of things really, so I’ve been fortunate enough to be in a position to speak with senior marketing executives on a daily basis for five years now in my position of running Incite.

I spend a lot of my time doing research, working out what priorities, challenges and shifting opportunities there are for marketers — which get into white papers and reports we put together. It became apparent there was an unprecedented level of turbulence in the space. The changes in marketing were happening at a pace that was unprecedented and shift in terms of the marketer’s role and their ability to influence the fortunes of their company were absolutely enormous. I remember speaking to several marketers that have been in their positions for decades and they say things like, “I used to know what I was doing and now it’s all changed.”

  Read more…

How a Single Source of Data Truth Can Improve Business Decisions

September 12th, 2014

One of the great things about writing MarketingSherpa case studies is having the opportunity to interview your marketing peers who are doing, well, just cool stuff. Also, being able to highlight challenges that can help readers improve their marketing efforts is a big perk as well.

A frustrating part of the process is that during our interviews, we get a lot of incredible insights that end up on the cutting room floor in order to craft our case studies. Luckily for us, some days we can share those insights that didn’t survive the case study edit right here in the MarketingSherpa Blog.

Today is one of those times.


Setting the stage

A recent MarketingSherpa Email Marketing Newsletter article — Marketing Analytics: How a drip email campaign transformed National Instruments’ data management — detailed a marketing analytics challenge at National Instruments, a global B2B company with a customer base of 30,000 companies in 91 countries.

The data challenge was developed out of a drip email campaign, which centered around National Instruments’ signature product, after conversion dropped at each stage from the beta test, to the global rollout, and finally, to results calculated by a new analyst.

The drip email campaign tested several of National Instruments’ key markets, and after the beta test was completed, the program was rolled out globally.

The data issues that came up when the team looked into the conversion metrics were:

  • The beta test converted at 8%
  • The global rollout was at 5%
  • The new analyst determined the conversion rate to be at 2%, which she determined after parsing the data set without any documentation as to how the 5% figure was calculated

Read the entire case study to find out how the team reacted to that marketing challenge to improve its entire data management process.

Read more…

Marketing Analytics: Managing through measurement and marketing as revenue center

April 26th, 2013

“What gets measured is what gets done.” So says the old business maxim, at least.

We wanted to know what marketers get done, so to speak, so in the 2013 Marketing Analytics Benchmark Report, we asked…

Q: Which of the following are you involved with tracking, analyzing or reporting on for your organization?


We asked the MarketingSherpa community about these results, and here’s what they had to say …


Managing through measurement

These results highlight the indifference, or perhaps lack of experience, when it comes to tracking marketing, especially social media marketing.

As these channels can be tracked offline (via call tracking) and online, via dynamic numbers and email tracking, it still seems as though there are trackers and non-trackers in terms of marketing specialists.

Even with a nudge effect of marketing across several channels, the ROI of these nudges is important and should be tracked.

The old adage of “managing through measurement” is still important and not having accurate measurement to call upon leaves marketing specialists arguing based on their opinions rather than facts. (And, that’s a sure way to the exit door).

– Boyd Butler, Consultant

Read more…

Marketing Campaigns: Dig deep to replicate your successes (and learn from your failures) with marketing and sales enablement case studies

January 6th, 2012

Sales were up 80% in 2011! Congratulations!

Except, well, now you have to repeat that feat in 2012 (or at least hold the line). So, how exactly did you lift sales?

Not only that, but your team is 80% bigger this year, and many of them weren’t even working with you when you initiated many of the changes that got you the big success in the first place (nice hypothetical problem to have, right?). Still, it begs the question …


How do your replicate your success?

Or how do you avoid making the same mistakes? Well, first you have to discover why you succeeded and failed. And then you need to spread that new business intelligence throughout your team and your organization.

I recommend forensic reporting. That’s a term I like to use to explain what our reporters do here at MarketingSherpa, and how we write the case studies that appear in our free marketing newsletters. (While our case studies are meant for external consumption, this is something I used to do internally as well for companies like IBM and BEA Systems to spread effective tactics inside the company, so I can see how the same principles apply.)

First, you have to understand these case studies don’t just exist somewhere. Marketers and teams go about their jobs and do various things. From these actions, they bring about successes or failures. But the reasons why and how they did it, which is the case study, is never prepackaged.

As the name “forensics reporting” connotes, you have to investigate and dig pretty deep, because often the entire picture of what led to the success or failure isn’t even immediately obvious to the people that helped make it happen.

Here’s a very simplified, six-step process to get your started …

  Read more…

Evidence-based Marketing: This blog post will not solve your most pressing marketing challenges…yet

June 23rd, 2011

Here at MECLABS, we have a pretty singular focus – to help you optimize your sales and marketing funnel. Or as I like to say in every email I write: Our job is to help you do your job better.

But, as Tom Cruise said to Katie Holmes (or maybe it was Cuba Gooding, Jr.), “Help me, help you.”

So evidence-based marketers, on what topic do you need more evidence? Evidence to help you understand what your peers are doing. Evidence to help you understand what really works. Evidence to do a little internal marketing to your business leaders (or for the agency folks out there, your clients)?

Below are a few key topics you’ve been telling us you want to learn more about. We’re trying to decide on the topic for our next MarketingSherpa Benchmark Report. In which topic should we invest 5 months of a research manager’s time digging into to discover the evidence you need.

Please take 7 seconds and rank them in order of importance in the poll below. Or if we missed a topic entirely, please tell us in the comments section below.

In no particular order, the nominees are…

  • Analytics – Using analytics and metrics to drive business decisions from which products to launch to which landing page works best to which content is most relevant to your audience.
  • Mobile – Mobile tactics can vary slightly or widely from traditional approaches, so how are marketers developing and implementing wireless strategies? How are marketers planning their budgets and measuring their results? And, for the love of all that is holy, when on Earth will I be able to view Flash on my iPad? OK, maybe not that last one. But seriously Steve, it would be nice.
  • E-commerce – What do direct sale sites view as the top opportunities for the upcoming year? Are they investing in site speed enhancement, conversion optimization, or both? And is social media impacting purchases?
  • Agency and vendor selection and management – What factors play into how marketers choose and compensate agencies? How do marketers determine if they need a software platform in a specific space? And if so, do they buy, go with open source, or attempt something homegrown? How do you get IT’s support in choosing a vendor? And then, more importantly, how do you get IT to stop talking about “Star Trek: The Next Generation” already?
  • Salary survey – How much does Bill make?  He hasn’t had a good idea since 1993. And his tuna salad lunches stink up the office. OK, if not Bill, then what about the rest of your peers. Are you being fairly compensated? And what should you pay your team?
  • Lead generation – Which information do marketers view as most valuable? How do they keep their databases updated and clean? Do marketers find third-party lists effective? And in an age of social media, do marketers value a big email list as much?
  • Content marketing and lead nurturing – Do my peers outsource content creation or do it in-house? If so, how? Do they have their own teams? Or just beg, borrow, and steal from other departments?

Marketing Strategies: Is performance-based vendor pricing the best value?

April 12th, 2011

Every advertising agency, SEO specialist, and PR firm likes to be seen as a partner, not a vendor. And that may well define your relationship. But, go down to accounting and explain that relationship, and they’ll laugh in your face.

And for good reason. While, hopefully, you do have that close knit partner relationship, at the end of the day, this is a financial arrangement and you must maximize the value of that arrangement.

On the face of it, performanced-based pricing seems like a no-brainer. You get a guaranteed result, or you don’t pay.

Is this a great country, or what?

Like many things, the devil is in the details. First of all, you have to keep in mind that the vendor knows the metrics far better than most prospective clients do. That means, in many cases, the vendor is selling the illusion of risk.  Second, and more importantly, you have to be sure the result you are paying for is the result you really want.

Let me show you what I mean. I’ll use a teleprospecting vendor as an example, and highlight the lesson you can get out of each example for the type of vendors you work with every day.

What intermediate metrics truly contribute to your success?

In B2B lead generation, a common result is defined as an appointment for sales people. The cost per appointment generally runs from about $400 to $800, depending typically on volume, your brand and the target.  If you can provide the vendor with the people your sales team absolutely, positively wants appointments with, you’re in business.

In my case, I would gladly take appointments with CMOs of B2B companies with $500 million or more in revenue. At least, that would probably be my immediate response. Of course, there might be a few CMOs in that target that oversee pure e-commerce plays, or highly commoditized, low-end products that do not require lead generation, my area of expertise (or, so I would like to think). Therefore, I might pay for some appointments that I don’t really want. So, the real cost for a qualified appointment might be a bit higher than I originally agreed to.

Then there is the hidden cost: sales productivity. The purpose of such services is to increase sales productivity. For these kinds of top executive-level appointments, the representative might very well expect to meet face-to-face with the CMO. So, you have to add to the equation the cost of the commuting time and meeting time. Loaded field sales costs for complex solutions often start at about $100 an hour and can be $500 an hour or more, for elite, high-end key account sales people.

Very quickly, a $500 appointment can become an $800 or even $1,500 appointment, especially if any serious commuting takes place. If the conversion-to-deal is high or the revenue-per-deal is high, then who cares? In many cases, however, buyers find out that 20 to 30 percent of the appointments are not a fit. Now the cost of the qualified appointment goes way up, and the soft cost of sales expense goes to the moon, not to mention the hit on sales productivity.

Unless you are absolutely certain that your sales team wants appointments with a particular set of individuals, then you really need to focus more on qualified leads, not just appointments.

LESSON LEARNED: Make sure you pick the correct intermediate metrics when paying for performance.

Are you helping  your vendors be successful?

OK, now you have learned your lesson, the hard way. You won’t do that again, right? So you negotiate a cost per lead fee structure. Before you do, you wisely work with sales to define BANT (Budget, Authority, Need and Timeline) lead criteria and structure the deal accordingly. Again, the devil is in the details. What if sales discovered, after further review, that what they really wanted was to get in to larger accounts before the prospect had finalized a budget? In those cases, maybe the deal takes longer but the win rate is higher and the deal size is higher. Happens all the time. Now you have to try to change the deal. At least for some accounts.

With leads, there is also often subjective information, open to interpretation. Is the prospect really acting with authority? Do they really have a budget? Even seasoned sales people can be mistaken about such things. In short, lead qualification is almost always nuanced, complex and evolving, as the teleprospecting operation figures out how to qualify leads precisely and the sales organization figures out what it really wants and needs. This reality often creates conflict with the vendor initially, because the fee structure negotiated is not really the right fee structure and so one side or the other loses.

Finally, if the vendor is taking all the risk, many people understandably put vendor support on the back burner. It’s human nature. In reality, teleprospecting operations fail, including those that are in-house, without proper support from marketing and sales. For example, from marketing, this operation needs lists, assets and tools, and an appropriate supply of reasonably qualified responders. From sales, the team needs training and mentoring on qualification and precise, rapid feedback on leads..

After all, the fee is fixed and the operation should run on auto-pilot. You also might not bother investing in effective demand generation that feeds the vendor or even list development, instead allowing the vendor to get by on cold-calling decaying lists.

Your program then becomes the dumping ground for new hires. The vendor might also park underperformers there before giving them their walking papers. In other words, both you and the vendor try to extract some value out of the effort. But, some of what matters isn’t getting measured, like the cost in the market place to your brand because of the quality of the calling.

LESSON LEARNED: A business relationship is a two-way street. Your vendor can’t help you be successful, if you don’t help it be successful. As Jerry Maguire said, “Help me help you!”

Is there transparency in your relationship?

So, what’s the right approach? It really depends on what you need and how clear you are about your needs. If you have a reasonably well-oiled, well-documented process and approach to teleprospecting, then asking the vendor to share in the risk and the upside can serve your mutual long-term interests.

If things are not going so well and you need to figure out the right approach, then pay-for-performance is going to create unnecessary conflict. You might be better served in that case to put your focus on determining the right model or strategy for teleprospecting and the parameters of a pilot. Insist on a level of transparency during the pilot and then use the pilot to optimize the approach. Then, after the production level has begun to plateau, start working on a shared risk model.

The right shared risk fee structures ensure that both the vendor and the client win if the program is working and lose if the program is failing. To arrive at such an arrangement, there must be clarity on both sides about mutual obligations and the consquences for non-compliance. Mutual trust and respect are also necessary, including a win-win approach to the fee structure.

To those who might argue that every dollar of profit a vendor makes is a dollar of margin that is lost to its clients, I would point to the free enterprise system. Everywhere in free markets, the quest for profits drives higher levels of efficiency (and losing money drives companies out of markets and out of business). If the vendor makes above average profits for driving above average efficiency, then its clients are the beneficiaries. And the profits that the vendor makes must always be tempered by what its competitors offer or what its clients believe they can achieve in-house.

LESSON LEARNED: A rising tide lifts all boats…as long as everyone is clear on how “tide” and “boat” are defined in the process. So, before you dive in, dip your toe in and start with a pilot that has flexibility to evolve over time. Once the proper success metrics have been discovered, and a working relationship is established, you can create a more successful payment model that truly shares risk and reward.

But don’t stop there. Look at this as an evolving fee model. Continue to optimize as you learn more about what creates a mutually successful relationship.

Related Resources

B2B Marketing: The 7 most important stages in the teleprospecting funnel

B2B Lead Generation: Why teleprospecting is a bridge between sales and marketing

B2B Marketing: The FUEL methodology outlined

Free MarketingSherpa B2B Newsletter

Marketing Research: Cold, hard cash versus focus groups

December 9th, 2010

“The best research is when individuals pull out their wallet and vote with cold, hard cash.” – my first boss

My first experience in marketing was working with a specialized publishing company. I had the privilege to work on exciting products with sexy topics such as “human resource compliance regulations.” Trust me when I tell you there is no better ice-breaker at a party than talking about a ground-breaking court ruling that will change how your company meets compliance of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

As a publisher, we used direct-response marketing to drive sales, with an aggressive program of direct-mail, email and telemarketing. And when it came to new product development, we were big believers in research. From customer surveys to industry research to focus groups, we used it all to make the best possible decision. At least, that was the general assumption…

Out of focus

You always have to test because many research tactics just help you achieve a best guess. And while a best guess is often closer to the truth than a random guess, it’s sometimes widely off the mark. In fact, I learned a valuable lesson one day when our company performed a focus group.

The members of this particular focus group were subscribers of a paid newsletter, and we knew that each person had subscribed by responding to a specific direct mail piece. That mail piece was extremely effective, with a powerful but somewhat provocative subject line and letter. Many people loved that direct-mail piece, but many hated it, so we wanted to get the opinion of the focus group members. When we showed the group the direct-mail piece and asked them if they would respond to that piece, 40 percent said they would never respond (if they only knew what we knew). Wow, we were shocked!

So, should we conclude that those 40% were bold-faced liars? Not necessarily. What we can conclude is that what people say they will do and what they actually do may be totally different. That is why research is only part of the equation, but if you want to sleep well at night, you have to take the next step…

Voting with their wallets

At the end of the day, the best research was when we tested the product and let the customers in the marketplace determine with their wallet if it was a viable product. We would test critical elements, like book title and price, and very quickly we would know if we had a winner or not.

Yes, all of the surveys and research were necessary to get started, but the most critical research was in our testing program. Testing is an amazing research tool. Regardless of the conversion you are trying to achieve, when your prospect takes (or doesn’t take) an action, you a have a valuable piece of information. Your conversion goal may be an event ticket sale, a white paper download, an email newsletter signup, or hundreds of other possible actions, but one thing never changes – the action you are seeking to drive can be tracked.

And if you’re ready to measure when your prospect engages with you, that is when the learning begins.

So, I’m thankful for that boss early in my career telling me repeatedly that the best research is when individuals pull out their wallet and vote with cold-hard cash. Over the years, I’ve had many experiences when individuals tell me they are going to do something but until they actually do it, I’m a little skeptical. (Editor’s Note: It’s true. Todd told me he was going to write a blog post for quite awhile. Now, I believe it.)

So gather as much research as possible, but always remember that cold, hard cash is a pretty sweet piece of research.

Related resources

Are Surveys Misleading? 7 Questions for Better Market Research (Members Library)

Marketing Research and Surveys: There are no secrets to online marketing success in this blog post

Focus Groups Vs. Reality: Would you buy a product that doesn’t exist with pretend money you don’t have?

Never Pull Sofa Duty Again: Stop guessing what your audience wants and start asking

Marketing Research and Surveys: There are no secrets to online marketing success in this blog post

November 23rd, 2010

“Would you like to hear a secret? Do you promise not to tell?” John, Paul, George and Ringo knew how powerful secrets are, as does every Internet marketing “expert” who has ever written a blog post.

Well, I’m sorry, but MarketingSherpa and MarketingExperiments don’t have any secrets to share with you. The only effective strategy I’ve ever seen is hard work and experimentation. Not only do we not have secrets for you, we don’t really even have any answers. But, we can help you ask the right questions.

Question everything

“My mother made me a scientist without ever intending to. Every other Jewish mother in Brooklyn would ask her child after school, ‘So, did you learn anything today?’ But not my mother. ‘Izzy,’ she would say, ‘did you ask a good question today?’ That difference, asking good questions, made me become a scientist.”
– Nobel laureate Isidor Isaac Rabi, discovered nuclear magnetic resonance

And do we ever raise those questions. Like a recent article by Senior Reporter Adam T. Sutton, Are Surveys Misleading? 7 Questions for Better Market Research. When Adam first showed me the article, I knew it would be a little controversial, so I pushed him a little harder than normal in the editing process. Look at the results, and I think you’ll agree that Adam delivered. (If not, I want to hear about it.)

I was a little surprised that the biggest challenge came from within my own company, though. MECLABS Director of Research, Sergio Balegno, questioned the article’s affront to online surveys. Sergio’s a smart guy, so when he says something I listen. And I think he’s right. Well, kinda…

When online surveys are effective

For the kind of surveys Sergio’s team conducts, I believe surveys to be very effective. I use his team’s research all the time in trying to decide what content would be the most helpful for  MarketingExperiments’ and MarketingSherpa’s audiences.

click image to enlarge


The above referenced article, from a recent Chart of the Week email newsletter, questions B2B marketers about the SEO tactics they are currently using. Sergio and his team are not asking about a vaguely potential and highly personal decision somewhere down the road; they are simply asking which SEO tactics B2B marketers use, which were the most effective and which required the greatest level of effort? And here’s where you can learn from Sergio.

I believe surveys can be effective for:

  • Gaining insights into current actions
  • Deciphering opinions on specific subjects that the audience has a high-level knowledge about
  • Getting some new ideas (essentially, crowdsourcing)

When online surveys are not effective

“Would you buy a product that doesn’t exist with pretend money you don’t have?” Yeah, there’s the rub…

Online surveys do not accurately predict actual customer behavior. Or, do they? Frankly, it’s just a shot in the dark. Your goal should be to try to truly gain knowledge about real-world situations that require complex, often counterintuitive decision-making processes that your subject may not even understand. Would a few questions on a Web page really help you gain that knowledge?

Online surveys are not effective when you’re trying to decipher:

  • Potential consumer actions (such as a purchase)
  • Potential B2B marketer purchase decisions very early in a sales cycle (too many variables)
  • Highly sensitive information (if you disagree with this statement, please share your past three sexual experiences in the comments section of this blog)
  • True sentiment on a complex topic that the survey respondent does not have expertise in. For example, 58 percent of Americans favor repeal of the new health care law, according to a recent Rasmussen Reports survey. Meanwhile, in a CBS/New York Times Poll, 41 percent of Americans favor repeal (stop and think about that for a second); and when people were actually told what features would be given up if the law is repealed, that number dropped to 25 percent.

Let’s do a little thought experiment, shall we? Write the answer to this question down on a piece of paper and bury it in your backyard… “How likely are you to buy each of the following in the next 12 months: regular mayonnaise, light mayonnaise, mayonnaise with olive oil, canola mayonnaise, low-fat mayonnaise?”

Now go leave yourself a reminder on Outlook for November 23, 2011 that says, “Dig up mayonnaise survey.” So, how accurate were you Carnac the Magnificent?

Only you can discover the marketing tactics that work best for your company

OK, I was a little too fresh up there, sorry about that. But I’m trying to help you understand this simple point (to annotate MasterCard)…there are some things in marketing that can’t be observed, for everything else try an online survey.

If you can’t observe the information you seek to obtain and there is a strong likelihood that your subjects know the answer, then a survey could be very helpful. In the example chart above, you likely could not observe the SEO tactics of 935 marketers and see into their brains to determine the effectiveness and effort required. Those respondents also likely know what SEO tactics they used, how well they worked and how much effort they required.

However, when you’re looking at potential customer actions, don’t try to ask prospective customers to predict what they might do under fictional, hypothetical circumstances. From the number of times I’ve asked my wife why she bought those shoes, believe me when I say she likely doesn’t know the answer herself.

Instead, simply observe their actual actions. And you can do that with real-world, real-time online testing.

After all, that is the real goal of all the information we provide. Again, we don’t write about secrets to Internet marketing success on MarketingExperiments and MarketingSherpa, and very rarely even give you any answers.

But we do help you ask the right questions and then do the experimentation (and hard work) necessary to determine what works best for your organization.

Related resources

2011 Email Marketing Benchmark Report

2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report

Ask the Scientist: Price testing methods and practices

Anti-Crowdsourcing: On (not) getting marketing ideas from your customers

Always Integrate Social Marketing?

September 2nd, 2010

A new report from ExactTarget and CoTweet reveals interesting differences in consumers’ motivations and habits when connecting with brands via email and social media. Take a look to find out more about why your customers are listening to you.

The report (you’ll be asked for an email address and phone number) is the result of three types of focus groups conducted with 44 people, and a 1,506-person survey (see methodology). It is loaded with interesting stats, such as:
o 38% of U.S. online consumers are fans of a brand on Facebook
o 5% follow at least one brand on Twitter
o 93% receive at least one permission-based email per day

The report offers plenty of other great metrics, and touches on useful topics, such as the motivational differences between consumers who first check email in the morning and consumers who first check Facebook. Check out the report for more.

The report also offers great best-practice advice for communicating with customers via social channels. However, there was one piece of advice I want to offer a different opinion on.

The report suggests that marketers avoid promoting exclusive, channel-specific offers in social media, and that “tone and content should be the primary differentiators in our channel strategies, not promotions.”

In general, this is sound advice. Integrating campaigns through multiple channels always drives stronger performance. And you do not want to condition followers to receiving special deals.

However, I feel like marketers should throw their social media followers an occasional treat. They are often truly fans of your brand. I do not think it could hurt to make them feel special, say, once every six months.

The “treat” does not have to be a discount or offer, either. For example, it could be a hint of a product launch sent to the audience two days before a press release is issued. And if it is a deal, it does not have to be exclusive to social media followers. Maybe, just once, they receive a coupon code a few days before your email subscribers.

How do you feel about occasionally giving social followers and fans special treatment? Waste of time? Vital display of gratitude? Let us know…